Spike Lee takes hit over portrayal of Italians

Debate began when director criticized Clint Eastwood

ROME -- While Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood trade barbs over Eastwood's portrayal of black characters, a leading Italian-American group has added its voice to the fray, arguing that Lee is guilty of the same prejudices he attributes to Eastwood.

Lee first criticized Eastwood last month during the Festival de Cannes, saying that black actors were conspicuous by their absence in Eastwood's Iwo Jima films "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters From Iwo Jima."

Eastwood replied that the films were historically accurate and that Lee should "shut his face," to which Lee quipped that Eastwood "is not my father, and we're not on a plantation."

According to Bill Dal Cerro, president of the Italic Institute of America, Lee may have his own anti-Italian racist tendencies to worry about.

"Spike Lee is very talented, but I sometimes wish he'd practice what he preaches," Dal Cerro said. "His points about African-Americans are well taken, but, ironically, he does the same thing to Italians in his films."

The Italic Institute of America has criticized Lee in the past for his portrayal of Italian-Americans in "Do the Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever" and has expressed worry about "Miracle at St. Anna," Lee's upcoming World War II drama set in Italy.